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Partnership development in an alliance for increased impact

Published on: 29/10/2020

Documenting the processes used to develop strong partnerships among NGOs and sharing some lessons learned about partnership development in an alliance in Ethiopia.

Water station in Ethiopia

Millennium Water Alliance (MWA) has been implementing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programmes in rural Ethiopia since 2004 to improve WASH service delivery. By convening members and partners, MWA has worked collaboratively to provide WASH services for more than two million rural Ethiopians in several regions. MWA has been using the collective impact framework to support greater impact by organisations working together rather than separately.

MWA convened and led a short-term, 2017-2019, programme titled, Bridge Program, funded by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation (Hilton Foundation). This work involved the MWA secretariat serving as the hub, IRC WASH providing technical support, and six WASH NGOs including CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Food for the Hungry, Helvetas, WaterAid, and World Vision providing the on-the-ground implementation work and collaborative long-term planning with district governments. One of the key deliverables of this programme was to develop strong partnerships both among the NGOs collaborating on the ground and with key government partners.

Contributing to Ethiopia’s nation-wide vision of achievement of SDG6

The long-term goal of this work was to contribute to Ethiopia’s nation-wide achievement of safe, affordable, and sustainable water service delivery by 2030. This requires working together and in a supportive role with the government which has the mandate to provide improved WASH services. Given the nature of the SDGs and the type of systems strengthening work required to achieve them, new ways of working and new approaches are needed. Trying to make this type of progress without trust and strong partnerships seem impossible. Additionally, there is a specific intention to ensure that innovations and methods that are proven successful get replicated in the work of partner organisations beyond this specific programme. Successful replication beyond a programme is more likely through existing and trusted relationships.

The Learning Brief has documented the processes used to develop strong partnerships among NGOs and shares some lessons learned along the way. It focuses exclusively on the development of partnerships and the use of the collective impact framework across a group of NGOs working on this joint programme. The paper discusses the activities conducted by MWA to develop trust and partnership across a group of NGOs; the methods used to engage in collective impact, and the lessons learned about partnership development in an alliance.

This paper can be found online at and was published in 2020. It is made possible through support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.